Leonard E. Delmar, a Buffalo News reporter who was a journalist for nearly 50 years and was a confidant of numerous political leaders in Niagara County, died Friday (Dec. 24, 1999) in a hospital in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Delmar, 73, died of complications from injuries suffered in a traffic accident Feb. 13, 1998, in Niagara Falls while en route to an assignment for The News.
A longtime resident of the Town of Niagara, he moved to New Smyrna Beach several months ago to recuperate and be with a daughter, Dianne Magee.
Delmar's byline had appeared in every daily newspaper in Erie and Niagara counties, beginning with the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, where he worked in 1951 and 1952 as a general assignment reporter.
He moved to the Niagara Falls Gazette (now the Niagara Gazette) in 1952 and covered the city government and police and fire news for five years. He also produced full-page weekly photo essays in cooperation with a staff photographer.
At the Gazette, Delmar scored a journalistic coup in 1956 when he was one of the first reporters to reach the scene of the rock slide that destroyed the Schoellkopf Generating Station in the Niagara River gorge.
Cliff Spieler, a former city editor at the Gazette, recalled that reporters were barred from the disaster scene, but Spieler and Delmar persuaded an ambulance driver to let them put on white jackets and ride into the restricted area in an ambulance.
"Back then, we never told anyone how we got the story," Spieler said.
Delmar joined the Buffalo Courier-Express in 1957 as a reporter assigned to its Niagara County Bureau. He moved into its Buffalo office and was an editor on the city desk before he was appointed picture editor in 1969. He remained in charge of the newspaper's photographic coverage until the Courier-Express went out of business in 1982.
For the next several years, Delmar wrote for the Tonawanda News, covering mainly the Niagara County Legislature.
Then, at an age when many men would have been contemplating retirement, Delmar joined The Buffalo News and was assigned to the Niagara Bureau.
Although he was scheduled to work only part-time, Delmar carried a full-time load of responsibilities. He specialized in covering county government, local politics and the court system until he was disabled in the 1998 accident.
Delmar was especially generous with his time in helping fellow reporters develop news sources and track down elusive stories.
Joann Scelsa, a News reporter who worked with him in the Niagara Bureau, said he was "a new reporter's best friend. Len's sense of collegiality did not stop at the newsroom door. He was always willing to share his knowledge -- from background information to the spelling of names -- with the new kid on the beat."
During a brief leave of absence from his work, he served temporarily as an international representative of the union formerly known as the American Newspaper Guild, and he negotiated contracts on behalf of employees of the Niagara Falls Gazette and the Tonawanda News.
Delmar did free-lance writing for various nonprofit agencies -- particularly the Niagara County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of which he was a member. He also contributed free-lance articles to numerous publications, including USA Today.
Michael Belasco, a retired copy editor at The News who had worked with Delmar at the Gazette, Courier-Express and News, said: "Len Delmar was an old-fashioned kind of newspaperman. He had a lot of connections in town. Everyone knew him, and when there was news, people called him. There are very few reporters like that with such good news contacts."
Among Delmar's recreational passions were baseball and country and western music. He attended several World Series games and could recite batting averages, key plays and other game statistics from memory. According to his own account, Delmar wrote "a few country and western songs, none of which had even a modicum of success."
He also enjoyed vacationing in the summer at a family cottage in Canada.
A New York City native, he was graduated from William Howard Taft High School in The Bronx and majored in journalism and English at New York's Hunter College and Columbia University.
Serving as a signalman in the U.S. Navy's Amphibious Forces from 1944 to 1946, Delmar was assigned to an LST with duty in the Pacific.
Surviving besides his daughter Dianne are his wife, the former Lois Credicott; three sons, Alan Delmar of Buffalo and Arthur "Butch" Hilts and Ralph Hilts, both of Niagara Falls; five other daughters, Cynthia Delmar of Los Angeles; Donna Cody of Nashville, Tenn.; and Dale Haseley, Jackie Hilts and Linda Miller, all of Niagara Falls; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 in Riverside Presbyterian Church, 84th Street and Lindbergh Avenue, Niagara Falls.